The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

USAID VP VOICE | BY RANDY CHESTER AFSA NEWS THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 59 Contact: | (202) 712-5267 March 31 marks the end of another performance cycle. The next 30 days will be a mad dash to the finish: advising, writing, arguing, reviewing, fretting, sharing, disagreeing, panicking, coping, negotiating, waiting, hoping, and stressing. For better or worse, an up-or-out system like ours requires it. After 19 years, evaluation season hasn’t gotten easier for me. Some of that’s on me and my own inability to just sit down and devote time and energy to it. I usually get a jump-start, but it’s not so easy to keep up the momentum when you’re crashing on D.C. and congressional taskers, CODELs, emergency responses, and other issues. When I finally press the “submit” button, an overwhelming sense of relief hits. Now it’s up to the gods of the Promotion Board. When I joined USAID in 2004, we had an annual evaluation form (AEF) and an appraisal committee (AC). Back then, we created performance plans containing three work objectives and two performance measures (PMs), wrote a “role in the organization” statement, and developed an employee statement. Our supervisors (wink wink) wrote our midterm reviews and completed the final narrative, the assessment of performance, skills, and potential. The narrative incorporated 360 feedback, detailed Promotion Evaluation Reforms include diverse voices in this process. AFSA and USAID signed a memorandum on the reform process in spring 2023, giving AFSA the opportunity to participate and offer our suggestions in working groups and stakeholder forums. Agency leaders are listening. There is much that we have agreed on, and there are areas where we don’t and won’t agree; but AFSA and USAID FSOs are, have been, and will continue to be at the table as these reforms are developed. This year DEIA achievements will be reported under the “advancing agency objectives” section, as announced last March and reiterated by Counselor Clinton White’s July message, “Updates to Foreign Service Performance Management to Create a Future-Ready Workforce.” This notice and others included links to support FSOs implementing DEIA and to prepare them for this upcoming performance report. It’s not the first time an administration has asked FSOs to demonstrate that they’ve met a specific AFSA and USAID signed a memorandum on the reform process in spring 2023, giving AFSA the opportunity to participate and offer our suggestions in working groups and stakeholder forums. any PM achievements, and demonstrated proficiency in at least one subskill among the four skill areas. Some ACs provided detailed comments and edits, while others focused only on the minimum reporting requirements. In April, AEFs took priority over everything. It was the system: We didn’t complain, we just put in the work. In 2017, multisource ratings and the promotion input form were introduced, officially putting the reporting burden on the FSO and relegating the supervisor/ rater to a single narrative addressing performance, readiness, and ability. These changes were rolled out over a two-year period as the agency developed guidance, conducted pilots, held webinars and trainings, and finetuned the process. It was not without controversy and resistance; but, as always, we focused on the work, moved forward, adapted, and evolved. Now USAID is once again launching new promotion reforms. It has commissioned an evaluation of the current system, removed “complexity” from the scoring rubric, and will add diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) reporting as a performance measure in the 2024-2025 cycle. There has been a concerted effort by the agency, led by dedicated FSOs, to agency policy. Under Administrator Rajiv Shah, FSOs were directed to address the “USAID Forward” reform agenda. DEIA is not new to USAID, and the vast majority of USAID FSOs already embody and employ DEIA principles. This year, though, we need to be explicit in detailing how. By early 2024, the agency should have hosted several sessions on the upcoming promotion cycle and published more resources. These, along with others developed since 2017 and 2018, are helpful guides. Refer to the “Employee Performance and Development” and the “Office of the Chief Diversity Officer” webpages on USAID’s intranet for help. Finally, the TindAAR group is an FSO-led, peerto-peer program intended to help you survive promotion season. It’s a tough time of year, but remember: Help is available, so don’t hesitate to ask me or others in your network. It’s never too early to start, and never too early to prepare for 2025 and the inclusion of DEIA as our fifth core competency. n